May 8th - 20th, 2015
|The Grey Company's map|
Soladain 10th Yarthmont
Chasing the Sneak
Burik yells and swings his magic sword over his head as he takes off running down the hill after the now invisible man that had been trailing the party. Griffin, Ree and Marcel move to follow. Remar calls to Draven and the others hiding in the woods to come.
“He is heading to the left, still heading downhill, toward the river,” Burik shouts as he runs.
Griffin pelts down the hill towards the river, drawing his sword as he goes. He listens to Burik’s shouted directions and tries to move further to the left to head him off.
Marcel follows in the same direction as the others and forcefully yells at the invisible man to “fall on you knee and surrender!” For fooling the Grey Company is usually and unhealthy thing to do. The shouts takes many by surprise.
Marcel keeps on sweeping with his shiny spear in case that he hits something to strike.
Spurring his horse up to the ridge, Draven takes over minding the miscreant’s horse from Rood. “Go boy, run like the wind, off to the left there. Get ahead of them in case he gets away!”
While the others remain in hot pursuit, Draven dismounts and searches the horse for information or incriminating evidence.
“He’s still going to the left,” Burik yells as he approaches the river’s edge. “Yea, that’s right buddy, I can SEE YOU!” the young Traladaran swordsman howls as he runs. Griffin, Marcel and Ree are just a few steps behind Burik. As the Company chases its prey along the river bank, they hear Remar chanting from somewhere behind them, nearby, and suddenly, just out in front of them a huge fire leaps up from the ground, 12 feet up into the air. A scream of terror and then pain can be heard, followed by a big splash from the river.
Burik pulls up to a stop, just shy of the flames, “He ran through the fire then jumped into the river!” he shouts excitedly. “There he is,” pointing to a choppy patch of water just downstream from the flaming patch of riverbank.
Griffin shouts as he sheds crossbow and sword, “Get downstream of him. I’ll go in!” He draws a knife and dives into the water. He tries to use the current to catch up to the fleeing slaver.
Griffin enters the cold, swift water of the Windrush River after the invisible man while the others rush up to the bank. As a result of the recent rains, the water is high up on the banks and Griffin has trouble finding the bottom of the river, though he does find several swift moving pieces of debris. Following directions from the bank and the wild splashing in the water ahead of him, he finds his quarry. As Griffin grabs him, he hears Gactis coughing and sputtering, “Yield, yield,” he says and puts up no further fight.
With help from those on shore, Griffin is able to drag his invisible captor up onto the bank. He is carefully disarmed and held in a sitting position. He coughs a few times but makes no attempt to run.
Up on the top of the hillside, Draven examines the horse’s saddle bags and finds, among other things, the tell-tale shiny manacles that so many of the other slavers have possessed as well. The priest holds them up with his left hand and calls down to those below, showing them what they had already believed. Rood comes back and takes the horse leads from Draven. Sen and Esir are somewhere back in the woods with Iris and the other horses he assumes.
Joining the rest by the waterline, Draven displays the manacles and his own stern glare where the man, still invisible, is being held. “Gactis - if that is your name - you have fallen under the judgement of Tarastia. Confess your sins now, freely, or meet the fires of hell this day. If it is in your power to show yourself now, do so. If not, the potion will wear off soon enough, and justice will be served.”
Marcel is largely bothered by the situation and resolve use his ears instead of his eyes. He keeps back from the others and, mostly shutting his eyes, listens intently to every sounds, whispers in the wind as he occupies a blocking spent between the river and the miscreant's former horse.
His spear is held as for a long grip, ready to sweep the air at the first hint of a passerby.
After a few short moments, Gactis slowly fades back into view. The wet man sits there with a defeated look on his face, eyes down and jaw clenched shut. He curls his lip up and then lets out a long sigh as he realizes that he is no longer invisible.
"You go to hell yourself. I'll see you there, priest," he spits out. "I'll see all of you there!"
Griffin sits down next to the slaver and sighs. “You know, Gactis, just once I would like to meet one of you guys that is not a raving fanatic. Someone who might, oh, I dunno, say to himself, ‘Boy, that Golthar has already gotten his ass handed to him once by the Grey Company, and then he sets me after them solo. What was he thinking? He must not value me or my life very much. If only there were some way that I could live to see another sunrise, I might reconsider my association with the Iron Ring. Maybe travel, see Darokin, or Alpahtia.’”
He looks at the older man. “Could you be that guy, Gactis? Find a way NOT to die today?” He leans in and whispers, “Are you that guy? Cuz I am really getting tired of killing all of you.”
Gactis looks up to Griffin with a sly look on his face. “Alright, I’m listening. What do you want? Confess my sins?” He looks hard at Draven. “I’m a slaver. So what? Plenty of them in the world.” He looks around to the faces of the other gathered members of the Company then breaks into a bit of a sheepish grin, “But, yea, I’ve kinda been thinking of a career change. Travel could be nice.”
“ ‘I’m a slaver’ he says. ‘I’m a murderer, I’m surely not the first.’ I’m a pederast, I’m sure there’s plenty of others that molest the young’” Draven turns to one side and spits. “My friend Griffin here holds your life in his hands, and make no mistake. But I’m the only one this side of the great beyond that can save your soul!” With that, he approaches the man. “This is for your own good.” He reaches out and touches the man, willing him to speak only the truth.
“Question him now,” he says to Griffin, and then again to Gactis, he says “When he is finished, if he hasn’t decided to water the ground with your lifeblood, you may seek me out for a real confessional.”
“All right then, let’s hear it. How many does Golthar have looking for us? Where should we avoid? Are there any simple signs or signals you Iron Ring types have to identify each other?”
Gactis ponders over Griffin’s questions for a moment, does a little counting on his fingers and then blurts out, “Well, there’s Golthar, of course, he’s still in Kelvin planning. And Sligh is with him there. He sent me and Jolenta here to the Elf village. We watched you when you arrived and waited for you to leave. I followed you to the south and she headed north toward Verge. She was going to scare up an ambush for you on the road somewhere. Then there’s that nasty Orc-blood sorcerer, Karllag. He headed south toward the capital. Aksel headed north, toward Selenica. There were Hounds too, don’t know how many, a few with each Reaver. And Golthar has some other contacts in Threshold and other cities nearby I think. Then there’s Harkam, I don’t know where he is.” Gactis seems a bit surprised at his informative confession, but continues speaking, “As far as identifying each other, most of us Reavers know enough of the other ones from working on different jobs. I only know Mastar Golthar’s face though, I’ve never seen any of the other ones, though I know there are others. We also bear the mark of the Iron Ring.” He holds his left arm up and pulls back the cloak and leather armor underneath to reveal a brand that looks like a small set of manacles burned into the inside of his arm. He then shows off a few hand signals and gestures that some members use sometimes, “But I always mess those up, so I usually don’t use ‘em,” he admits. He goes on to share that sometimes a member will scratch the manacles in the upper left corner of a door jamb to let others know that members are near. “That’s tricky, though,” he says, “cause sometimes the mark is scratched in the right side corner.” He ponders that for a moment then continues. “So, I done told ya what I know. Thats well more than enough to get me killed by the Ring. I ain’t never done nothing to you all, just rode out of town after ya.”
Griffin smiles, “Excellent, excellent.” His face grows somewhat sterner. “One last question for me, then. What do you plan to do if we leave you alive?”
Gactis looks uncomfortable at the thought of being killed. “I won’t be making no more trouble for ya. I won’t be reporting back in to Jolenta or Golthar. I’ve got some valuables in my saddle bag. I’ll take me horse and head south, to the capitol and catch me a ship away from here, unless of course you all rob me and take my belongings, then I won’t have nowhere else to go and will have to do what I can to get by. But you got my word as a confession to a holy priest, I won’t be causing you no further trouble if you be letting me take my things and go.” He is sweating a bit as he looks from person to person. He winces when his eyes fall on Marcel’s spear that is planted in the ground nearby. He wrings his hands together. “I told ya all I know. I promise I won’t be causing no more harm to befall you.”
Marcel is concerned that Griffin isn't joking about letting the guy go. Afraid that he'd mess his interrogation, he averts his eyes and start making up reasons to slay the guy if it has to come down to this. For some reasons, the moral objections that he displayed in saving the life of surrendering goblin warriors do not apply to Gactis. He nervously chats with the others while this is going on.
Once or twice, he clasps his spear and feels that he’ll dispatch the guy, but gives up. He slips towards the others and, in a defeated tone:
|An Iron Ring sneak|
“We’re not murderers. He’s got nothing on us other than we were in Rifllian, which this other lass already know. I hate this, but is he walking?”
Griffin and the others nod.
Marcel turns to Gactis with a grin in his face.
“We sure hope that you go and become the nicest effin’ baker in Specularum: get married and take care of a litter full of wee ones. Do you have the fortitude to give up on your kind?”, he doesn’t wait for an answer.
Marcel walks away and head for his horse, when he closes his eyes, he can already see Gactis’ yellowed smile on the day that they meet him again, in a not so distant future.
“You’ve spoken true, and that will spare your life, Gactis, but what of your soul? Do you have it in you to take the blessing of the immortal gods before we part company, and a clean break with your foul past?”
Gactis squeezes a smile out of his crooked mouth, “You’ve got your gods, I’ve got mine. Not so sure your blessing is gonna do much good, boy, but if you wish to bestow it upon me, I will accept it.”
Griffin springs to his feet, rubbing his hands together. “Well, I’m glad we’ve had this little chat, but I understand you really do have to go, Gactis. There’s your horse, and there's the road to Kelvin. We’ll give you a good head start, and then we’ll be on our way.”
He helps the man to his feet. “Good luck, and I sincerely hope never to see you again.”
The soggy slaver steps carefully around Marcel and back to his horse. He mounts and looks back at the Grey Company, but words fail him, so he just pulls the horse around and sets off at a gallop south toward Kelvin.
Griffin calls everyone in briefly. “I know that wasn’t necessarily how things have gone in the past when we captured one of those Iron Ring slavers. I made a call to see if we could avoid killing someone in cold blood. Anyone have anything to say, now’s the time.” He looks around at his comrades, particularly at Marcel.
Ree steps up and looks at Griffin, “Yea, I know these are the ‘bad guys’ and all, and it doesn’t really seem wrong killing them in a fight, cause they are fighting us and trying to do the same. But this guy, he didn’t try to fight us. He tried to run away. He was just following us on the road. Even though he has no doubt done wrong, I don’t think we’re the ones to sentence him to death. That’s for the Duke and his laws and courts. At best, we could have turned him in to the members of the Elvenguard at Rifllian or taken him to the next town and turned him over to the authorities there, right?” She looks a bit uneasy and confused. The sweet smell of fresh flowers emanates from her as well. She can be seen playing with a ring on her right hand. “I like being one of the ‘good guys’ but not at the risk of becoming a wanted murderer,” she adds softly.
Into the Woods
“Right,” he nods. “We’re not murderers. When we can, let’s make sure we don’t take the easy way.” He grins, “After all, we’re the good guys.”
He straightens up. “Okay, we’re burning daylight. Let’s get a move on.” He easily mounts his horse and moves back towards the forest. “Let’s stick to the plan and circle around Rifflian.” He motions to Marcel. “Gactis mentioned a potential ambush. Any ideas on how to deal with that?” Griffin and Marcel lead the way into the woods.
“We’re not goblins, I know.”, Marcel tells Griffin as his voice trails off.
“I know that you’all going to hate the idea, but since we know that there is an ambush waiting on the road to Verge, that we’re not going to Verge.”
“Then we shouldn’t go to Verge at all.”, Griffin complete Marcel’s predictable train of thought. The logic is flawless, the implications not as pleasant.
“I say: let’s rough this one. I’m assuming that there is a way to proceed 2 horizons away from the road and hopefully hook West of Verge to reconnect with the river out of sight. It won’t be road travel, but we’re outfitted just for that. I’d be nice to to run into a waiting manacled goblin this time.”
The plan is to skirt around Rifllian in the woods, trying to avoid contact with anyone, which may be quite difficult given the current size of the Company and the potential of Elves and other inhabitants of the surrounding area. Marcel’s idea of going “two horizons” away from the road is followed as best as it can, though spotting the “horizon” in the Radlebb Woods proves quite difficult.
The forest is light and breezy, though the further one goes from the road, the harder it is to travel, especially with the horses. After about 2 hours of marching in a south-westerly direction, the Company stops for a rest. Draven and Remar both seem to be having an especially rough time in the saddle this morning. Griffin estimates they have traveled maybe two miles. Fortunately the forest proves to be fruitful and provides a good amount of forage for the travelers. After a quick bite to eat and refilling some water supplies at a small spring, the group gets on the move again.
Moving through the forest continues to be slow going with no trails or paths to follow. Though the Company comes across some such paths occasionally, they decide to avoid them in hopes of avoiding any unwanted observation of their passage. Ree and Griffin take turns scouting out ahead and behind the long column of explorers as they move slowly through the forest. There are lots of signs of inhabitants in the surrounding forest as the group swings around more to the north. Foot-paths that appear to be regularly traveled, random piles of chopped and gathered firewood, faint wisps of wood smoke and food cooking nearby and even some sightings of houses and buildings built between, and more commonly, up in the branches of the surrounding trees. Griffin and Remar are successful in doing a bit of hunting, taking some small birds and animals to cook up later and Burik is even able to catch a few fish in a small pool along the way.
The day grows longer and eventually the Company realizes that if it hopes to make any better progress, they will need to follow some of the trails and paths that surround Rifllian. Otherwise, it may take them another whole day to even reach the end of the forest and begin their journey toward the mountains.
After yet another bout of backtracking and bushwacking, Griffin calls a breather. “Okay, I’m starting to think that some of the benefits of the loop around will be lost if we end up camping in some Elvish woodsman’s back yard. Do we want to keep heading west, get out on the plains where we can make better time, and see if we have anyone following us, and get to the mountains before we swing back? Or just grab one of these trails and try to get through here more swiftly?”
“We have gone far to the West now, there is no need to divert anymore. Let’s head North to the plains where the going will be better.”
Griffin shrugs, then turns his mount due north. “Okay, then, let’s get a move on. It’d be nice to get out of the woods before we camp.” He leads the way across the trails radiating from Rifflian, trying to get the group to the plains before nightfall.
The Company continues in a northerly direction, doing their best to avoid encounters with anyone in the area. While no one is encountered, it is fairly obvious that signs of the Company’s passage will be very easy to spot. Seven horses and 10 people trudging through the forest is no doubt going to leave a considerable mark, especially for Elves to spot, though, really, it is not the Elves that the Company is hiding from.
|Difficult landscape in the Radlebb Woods|
Later in the day, the surrounding landscape becomes more and more difficult to traverse as it starts to transition into forested highlands. The ground rises sharply in many places and areas to move to higher ground are not readily apparent at all times.
Cliff faces, ravines and occasional waterfalls dot the forest. At one particular spot, the Company finds itself traveling along a uneven ridge, nearly vertical in many places and sometimes even jutting out overhead. Marcel becomes a bit tense and starts muttering about “good place for an ambush,” and other things like that. His precautionary alertness focuses most of the company’s eyes up on the ridge above and at the time that Griffin finally decides he needs to climb up to take a look, everyone is caught off guard by a hearty, “ho there, travelers,” being called out from ahead.
A Forest Encounter
A hidden break in the ridge ahead reveals a trail cutting across the Company’s current path and on that trail sits a sturdy 2 wheeled cart being pulled by a pair of good sized, muscular goats of some type. Two men, Traladarans by the look of their dress, are standing near the animals. A third man can be seen pulling himself into a sitting position from the back of the cart. He appears to be laying on a good sized load of something under a tarp. He leans up and waves a hand at the Company. Several other goats can be seen next to and behind the cart.
|A good sized goat|
“Ho, yourself!” Griffin greets the fellows jovially, moving closer but angling his horse to go around them in short order. “Fine day, isn’t it?”
As he moves forward, Griffin tries to see if he can figure out what is in the cart.
he two men keep an eye on Griffin as he moves forward, eyeing him suspiciously. “Where are ya headed, friends? We are traveling to Rifllian to trade some of our goods,” he jerks his head back toward the cart. “Our man, Rorirk there, managed to hurt his leg yesterday on the trail, so he gets a comfy ride atop our wool, radishes and other goods.” He makes a kind of smirk to his other walking companion then calls back to the third man, riding in the cart. “You doin’ alright back there, Rorik? Anything we can do to make your ride a bit more comfortable?” He laughs, as does the other walking man.
Rorik leans up and twists around in the cart again, “To the hells with you both. You know I would be walking if I could. I’m no laze-about, damn ya!”
As Griffin talks with the travelers, Marcel keeps his soldier’s senses on high alert, watching for anything out of the ordinary. After a moment, he sees what he has been looking for. Crouched up on the ridge just past where the new travelers appeared, he sees another figure hiding among the foliage. It looks to be another Human, or possibly an Elf, watching the interactions down on the ground.
Griffin smiles, “We’re heading up into the mountains north-west of here, across the plains. Gonna try and do some prospecting.” He looks at Rorik, then motions to Draven. “My friend here has some physiking skills, if you want him to take a look at that leg.”
“Mighty kind of ya folks, but we’re good. If we let ya patch old Rorik up, then we can’t be giving ‘em a hard time anymore. This is a lot more fun. Anyway, Rifllian aint more’n an hour or so along and we’ll get him in to see Mother Blossom. She should be able to patch him up just fine. No need to take any more of your time.” He smiles, “If you say yer heading out to do some prospecting, you should take this track. It heads mostly west, but turns a bit north. It will take you to Tanglewood, bout 2 days out, though it’s taken us three this trip. That’s where we’re from. There’s stuff to be found in those hills, I reckon. Plenty of folks be looking for it. Sounds like too much work for me though. I’ll stick to my goats.” His companion nods his head and makes a grunting sound that could be an agreement.
“I’ve heard folk talk that some old abandoned copper mines have been recently discovered out west, but I have yet to see any copper pulled out of them. Be careful though. Them hills and mountains are dangerous. I’d say to make for Braltov. Mining town a few days north of Tanglewood. Not too far from Verge and Sir Antonic’s lands.”
Griffin nods, “Thanks for the tip, friend. So, how far up this track before we get out of these woods? I’d like to at least be able to see the mountains, keeps me oriented.”
“If you follow back the way we came, what, you got about 10 of ya but not all mounted? I’d say 2 or 3 hours, maybe closer to three, some of it’s uphill. Should be able to get to the edge of the forest before dark, plenty of time to set camp,” the man replies. “Ya know, I never got you all’s names. I’m Jib. This here is my cousin, or uncle or whatever. He’s kin. We call him Gur. He don’t talk much, but a nice enough fella.” Gur nods and smiles a dirty grin, his lips cracked and sun-worn. “And you saw Rorik back there. He’s kin too. Pretty worthless, especially on this trip.” Rorik holds up his hand in a fist, shaking it in Jib’s general direction. “And my boy, Thomen, he’s around here somewhere. He was scouting, probably watching from somewhere round here, I’d reckon he’s up on the ridge.”
A rustling sound from up above reveals a young man, probably around Ree’s age, crouching in the foliage on top of the ridge. “Ya, you got it pa. I’m up here, just making sure there was no trouble with them strangers.” The boy, who resembles Jib quite a bit, can clearly be seen holding a longbow. He begins plucking several arrows out of the ground and placing them back in his quiver.
Jib looks up, “He’s a good boy, he is.”
Griffin acts startled, “So he is, and apparently wood-smart as well!” He gazes up the track, “I’m Owen Sweetbriar. And when we get to Tanglewood, is there a decent inn?”
“No, there’s no inn in Tanglewood, but that won’t stop ya from finding a bite to eat, a full mug of beer and a dry bed ta sleep on. Talk to Oga. She will take care of you. Tanglewood’s not a big metropolis like Rifllian or Verge, you know, just a small village on the edge of the highlands,” Jib replies.
Griffin sighs, obviously disappointed. “Ah, well, may have to wait til Braltov then. If we find something, mayhap that will be where we head to resupply.”
He looks up the track, “Well, thanks for the tips, but we won’t get anywhere jawing like this.” He looks at the Company, “Folks, let’s get a move on. Jib here says we’ll probably find a good place to camp before dark. I’m looking forward to some decent rabbit stew tonight!”
He gives a nod to Jib and the goat herders, and turns his horse up the trail.
The Grey Company climbs the track to the west, bearing slightly north, for a couple of hours and finally leaves the forest behind. The sun can be seen dipping toward the far horizon, casting harsh shadows on the mountains just to the north. The high grassland stretches out toward hills in the west and mountains in the north.
|Highlands north of Radlebb Woods|
Cast of Characters:Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard
Marcel Maas, a homely but sincere wielder of spears aspiring to cooking greatness commanded by +Christian Blouin
Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos ministered by +Jason Packer
and +Jason Woollard as The DM